The Gulf Coast.

After “The Summer of Madness”, I found myself often quoting Terminator 2: “I need a vacation.”

Resolve on getting a house was shaken, and to be honest, I was just over it at this point.

So I went to Disneyland:

My favorite ride!

My favorite ride!

As soon as I got home, and doing a Toyota convention at the Venetian, I booked a travel package to Pensacola, and was on my way.

But I had to stop in Dallas first. I couldn’t very well just do that (incredibly long) drive through Texas without seeing my sister and my friends, so that’s exactly what I did:

An artsy shot of my sister and I.

An artsy shot of my sister and I.

Town East Mall, where I used to hang out.

Town East Mall, where I used to hang out.

Toby, Me, Martha.

Toby, Me, Martha.

I invited Toby to join me, so down the I-10 we went, from Texas to Louisiana, briefly passing through New Orleans, then Mississippi, then Alabama, where we stopped at a Hardee’s, where I was reminded of the Southernness of our situation:

We ordered our meal, and the girl handed us our beverages. “Here’s y’all’s joinks”, she said.

….

“Joinks”?

I looked at Toby, who looked equally as confused, and then started to grin.

“What was that”, I said, hoping to illicit conversation.

“Here’s your other joink”, she said, handing the second Coke over.

From that point, all drinks became “joinks”.

As it became night, we finally pulled into Florida, then Pensacola Beach, which has one of the most iconic signs of my childhood:

The Fish Sign.

The Fish Sign.

As a kid, I briefly lived in Pensacola, you see, and I always went to the beach after school. I’ve returned since, and I always return to this place, my little piece of Heaven:

The white sands and green waters of Pensacola.

The white sands and green waters of Pensacola.

For the next few days, Toby and I vacationed in paradise, eating seafood, shell hunting on the beach, and exploring old fort ruins:

The beach.

The beach.

I'm sailing!  SAILING!

I’m sailing! SAILING!

Lunch time... of FEAR!

Lunch time… of FEAR!

I don't know what I was saying, but I bet it was amazing.

I don’t know what I was saying, but I bet it was amazing.

Another day in Florida.

Another day in Florida.

Watching the waves, man.

Watching the waves, man.

If you wondered what I was looking at....

If you wondered what I was looking at….

Sunset on the beach.

Sunset on the beach.

Waking up in the morning was pretty much this.

Waking up in the morning was pretty much this.

And pirate themed restaurants.

And pirate themed restaurants.

And old Spanish forts.

And old Spanish forts.

The Ball Tower.

The Ball Tower.

The sign at day.

The sign at day.

It wasn’t the only thing we saw while there:

The Naval Museum.

The Naval Museum.

The Blue Angels.

The Blue Angels.

I even got my own plane!

I even got my own plane!

I also found my Grandmother's house that I lived in when I was six.

I also found my Grandmother’s house that I lived in when I was six.

Now, during all of this, my realtor kept calling me, trying to convince me to take back the original house (I told him vehemently “NO”), and kept asking me to sign things, review documents, etc., no matter how many times I told him and his secretary that I was on vacation. Finally, I just ignored the whole lot of them. I had to. They were driving me crazy, and weren’t going to ruin my vacation.

So Toby and I went to New Orleans.

New Orleans is a magical place. Even after Hurricane Katrina, it was still as lively and fun as ever, with voodoo, jazz bands, great food, beads, and a lot of booze:

Beware those who disturb the tombs... or those who nearly get locked it.  Uh, which we didn't.  Shut up.

Beware those who disturb the tombs… or those who nearly get locked in. Uh, which we didn’t. Shut up.

The Big Easy.

The Big Easy.

Jackson Square.

Jackson Square.

One of the most famous voodoo shops.

One of the most famous voodoo shops.

These stores are everywhere.

These stores are everywhere.

On Bourbon Street.

On Bourbon Street.

Dumpster humor....

Dumpster humor….

But it was back to Dallas, where I spent time with more of my friends. We spent a lot of time laughing, and catching up on old times. I was in a much happier place being back since 2008, where each trip became progressively harder on me. Here, it was just a collection of loved people and memories. All part of restoring the “old” me that I felt had disappeared during the course of the last year.

The gang.

The gang.

But I also chose to return to my hometown… to say good-bye. I couldn’t do it the last time. I wasn’t ready, and it turned out that the time away….

Things change when you leave home for good. Certain threads are broken that can never really be replaced, and home… outside of a few lingering places, felt more like a museum of my memories.

Dad’s home had been bought, and the yard was overrun with monster trucks and scrap metal thrown about the lawn. I tried to see if I could access one of the backways to see the yard, but the brush had grown so thick in the following years, that I had no way in.

I decided it was time to visit the gravesite of my parents. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I felt that I needed to. I did make a brief stop by Dad’s old workplace, where I ran into one of his close friends and colleagues. We talked for a while, and he told me that for months after Dad passed, he would drive by the old house until one day he finally realized that Dad wasn’t coming back, and that was no longer Dad’s home. He had to finally accept that it was time to let go, and it was time to move on. He looked at me sympathetically. “It’s time for you to let go of that house, Guy. It’s no longer your Dad’s.” I had once dreamed of owning that old home, and with all the house issues I had been facing, I grew more and more homesick for it, but he was ultimately right: I couldn’t go back. Not anymore.

I finally made my way to the cemetery where I stood in front of the marker bearing my parent’s names. I thought about the events that led me to this moment, and the aftermath. I reflected on the year and a half before it. My life. The fights over the estate. The accident. The failure in securing a house…. I never had time to properly grieve because no time could be made. I was always too busy. It was then that I suddenly recalled a quote from an older issue of a Batman story that had popped into my mind: “We mourn lives lost. Including our own.”

And in that moment, a year and a half of rage and loss and grief rose to the surface. I had held back for so long. I always had too many things to do. Such a tight schedule that I always had to maintain since Dad died. But the thing about not having a schedule is that you find yourself having time to deal with the “secondary things”. The things you have to put aside until you can deal with it later. But it was time then.

I found myself looking at my hometown differently. It was a reminder of where I had started. What defined me for so long. And now it was time to close the book on that part and start a new chapter. And so, in taking in a few final memories, I went back to my sister’s to prepare for my drive home, released, rejuvenated, and restored.

And it was fine. I had a lot of roadside oddities to explore along the way:

Native American Reservations.

Native American Reservations.

Petrified Wood Stores.

Petrified Wood Stores.

Dinosaurs eating people.

Dinosaurs eating people.

Cartoon dinosaurs and campgrounds.

Cartoon dinosaurs and campgrounds.

And on my next visit to the Grand Canyon, only a squirrel was found.

And on my next visit to the Grand Canyon, only a squirrel was found.

My realtor was jumping up and down to continue the house hunt, so I searched online for places that we actually would, you know, want.

It was the morning of my birthday that we discovered a new house. And with that, some luck began to change….